TEN YEARS AGO, I first met and interviewed Rosa Ramón, a former community radio station manager and producer for KDNA 91.9 FM, a Spanish-language station in a small rural town I had just learned about called Granger.
I interviewed Rosa for an oral history library archive collection in development, seeking to interrupt histories of music scenes and social justice movements that sidelined or completely ignored women of color and their important contributions to genres that speak back to power, including punk rock and hip-hop. The project, Women Who Rock Digital Oral History Archive, was one of the first research assignments I worked on after moving to the Pacific Northwest in August 2010 to begin graduate school at the University of Washington in the department of Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies.
I was still clinging to my umbrella in one hand and coffee in the other, trying to get through another Seattle winter, when I learned about KDNA’s important interventions in the Yakima Valley, producing innovative community-based radio programs since 1979 by teaching farmworkers to make radio. Having just completed a master’s degree in Chicana and Chicano Studies, where I focused on cultural productions from social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s, I was baffled at how I had never heard of these efforts by Chicana radio producers, many who shared a background similar to my own: bilingual, first-generation college students interested in social justice and equity for all.
Learning this history directly from the Chicana and Chicano community-radio broadcasters who fought to create content for people like my parents, working-class Mexican American families, I knew that my background in community radio in Los Angeles had set me up to help bring this story to wider audiences. My excitement grew as I set up the camera equipment in a small faculty office in Padelford Hall at the UW Seattle campus to interview Rosa, a Chicana radio producer who bravely had stepped out of the cultural expectations of being a good, quiet Mexican daughter by cultivating a public persona and voice carried on the public radio airwaves; that was the fuel I needed to carry me through the finish line of completing my book, “Feminista Frequencies: Community Building Through Radio in the Yakima Valley.”
From finding very little information about Chicano public radio or even Spanish-language radio produced in the United States for Latino audiences to spending hours carefully scanning rare station documents and photographs in order to curate my own archival record, I grew committed to debunking the assumption that there are no Latinos in the Pacific Northwest. I did this by showcasing the rich histories of Mexican American farmworkers who not only work tirelessly to bring food to our tables, but who also found the time and courage to speak out on the airwaves, demanding better pay and safe working conditions, and advocating for the right to proudly air programming for our communities, in Spanish, that celebrates our histories and cultural contributions to the region.